Archive for October, 2010

Oct 27 2010

International puppy and the Swiss bureaucracy

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It’s 7:47am and I’m on the train to Geneva. The sun isn’t up yet, but this Sunday is heure d’hiver—daylights’ savings time—so next week it’ll be light at this time, I think. Also, for a little while, we’ll be one hour closer to the States, so give us a call!

This isn’t my normal train. Usually, I wake Ruben up at 7am, take him for a walk on which he quickly transforms from cute and sleepy to hyper and leaf-chasing. Today he was up at 6:25am, and although he wasn’t crying, he clearly needed to pee. I didn’t want him to start crying, so I decided I’d wake up and take him outside. Jackie kept sleeping, or at least tried to, but she just called to tell me that she was awake during:

  • training with him—he really doesn’t want to do the lie down command
  • my shower—he cried the whole time I was in it, with him in his pen, apparently
  • after I left, he had a bone/treat thing he really likes, which he was enthusiastically and noisily devouring

Ah, well…earplugs? Sorry Jackie!

But this isn’t a post about our new puppy, as cute as he is!

(See more photos on Jackie’s Flickr stream, always available by clicking the Photos” link on the very top right.)

No, this is a post about Swiss bureaucracy. The breeder warned us that if we travel with Ruben, we’re going to need a dog passport for him so that we can re-enter Switzerland. Rationally, we knew that this probably just meant we needed a vaccination booklet, signed by our vet, but this being Switzerland, and Jackie still waiting for her new residence permit, which expired a month ago, we were worried we’d have to register Ruben with the city, get a form saying he was registered, bring it to our vet, and then bring it back to some central dog canton office to apply. Incidentally, this is the procedure for getting a driver’s license if you already have a valid foreign one, with an optometrist in the role of vet, and fees at every step of the process.

Meanwhile, I already received my residence permit—actually a “carte de legitimation”—and quite quickly at that, because it’s handled by the World Health Organization and the Swiss authorities, rather than the Canton of Vaud. I went ahead and registered with the city of Lausanne as well, since I thought I had to, but they very graciously explained that actually, I don’t need to register because of my immigration status. But they were happy to take my money anyway. I’m also pretty sure I’m exempt from the random tourist tax Jackie blogged about.

So, back to Ruben. We found a form online from the city of Lausanne that allowed us to register him. We dutifully filled it out, and although the breeder took down Jackie’s last name—i.e. he’s officially part of her family, sorry mom!—I decided it’d be better to fill it out in my name, in the off chance that my immigration status would mean that I don’t have to pay a tax on him. Belive it or not, I received an e-mail yesterday telling me that this is in fact the case, and that we’re exempt, conditional on me sending a document to prove my status. I sent them a copy of my carte de legitimation, which expires at the end of the year, and they replied that it’ll do for now, and when I get a new one, I’ll have to send it along. And I’ll have to keep them apprised of any changes in my status or the status of my dog.

Forget about out-of-control sheriffs in Arizona enforcing federal immigration law—the dog catcher in Lausanne is involved here!

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Oct 11 2010

Introducing Ruben

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Meet our 10-week-old Coton de Tuléar from a family farm in a small village in canton Neuchâtel.

Ruben, Day 3

As expected, he is a mix of adorable, fluffy puppy-ness and lots of work!

Ruben, Night 2

For our Switzerland-based readers, send us any dog raising tips you’ve got. Vet recommendations? Beloved toys? Decent pet supply store accessible by public transport? Traveling? Leash training hot spots in Lausanne?

Ruben, Day 2

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Oct 06 2010

2 years, and it still isn’t easy

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Not that living anywhere is easy.  This move, plus, just simply still being in Switzerland, has added plenty of fuel to (re?)discovering some odd things about this place.

  1. Let’s start with laundry.  As if there is a better place to start.  New place, Sunday slots, schedules we sign up for…easy peasy, right?  Nope.  Turns out the long time slots which are an inhibitor to frequent and short laundry runs have a reason for existing, and it isn’t washing machine lunch breaks.  There is no clothes dryer in the laundry room.  Yes indeed, at least in the traditional sense.  Instead, there are clothes lines in the shared laundry room with a giant fan at one end.  Said fan blows cold air on your clothes, and actually works reasonably well, if you only wash a load or two at the beginning of the time block and then have the space to spread out all the clothes, and the time to regularly run down and shift them around on the lines over the course of 5 hours.  However, since we did a month’s worth of laundry on Sunday, beginning at 6:30 am, there was no way it was all getting dry by 2 pm.  So, besides turning our apartment into a spiderweb of clothes lines, we hauled the seriously damp stuff up the hill to the (now closer, still just as expensive and busy) laundromat.  By 4:30, most of our clothes were back in the apartment and dry.  We folded them on Monday night.  Our new gameplan: small amounts of laundry, often, and it will just have to take 7 hours each time.  Joy.
  2. Tourist tax.  Yes, because I have a residence permit, and because Lausanne has a tourist tax which taxes those persons here on residence permits, I have to pay it.  As if I’m a tourist.  30 chf/month for the joy of “vacationing” in Lausanne.  I was notified about this in a letter I received Monday.  Thank you, Lausanne, what a pleasant surprise.  I get to pay this on top of the money I pay the bureaucracy to create residence permits for me (95 chf/card)?  I’m suddenly appreciative of Renens.
  3. Since I’ve moved to Switzerland, I’ve had an AG, abonnement generale, which allows for the use of all public transportation in Switzerland after the hefty fee for it.  Because of the complications of paying for it on a monthly basis, I’ve always just fronted the wad of money for a yearly one.  Since we won’t be here a full year, we aimed for the monthly payment plan this time around so we could opt out after 10 months.  This required a huge amount of paperwork, since Seth also needs one this year, and since we were moving, and since both of our residents permits expired and we are waiting for new ones.  Since the monthly AG requires more trust on SBB’s part since they don’t get the money up front, and since we wanted to take advantage of the youth and partner discounts, we have to prove we’ll be here legally for at least 4 months, prove what our address is, prove we’re under 25, that we cohabit, etc.  It worked for mine, but Seth was unable to prove he’d be here for 4 months, so SBB sent his documents back.  When Seth went to the station yesterday to shell out the money for a yearly one, he had a revelation—when we leave for good, we get a document from Lausanne saying when we’re going, and then we can cancel all contracts, and for the SBB that means…we can get a refund of any unused portion of transport passes.  So Seth can get the money back from the last, unused month or two.  Why didn’t we realize that they’d do that earlier, even though they never say that is their policy?  We should’ve known by now.

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Oct 05 2010

Swiss Mallomar Discovery!

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On Sunday night, we had dinner with Adar and visiting Israeli friends.  The friends’ 1.5 year old son, who was happily scarfing down swiss chard (yeah!  a child after my own heart!), was distracted from that glorious vegetable when his dad pulled a box of Schaumkuss out of Adar’s fridge.  I had never seen these things before, or if I had, it was only out of the corner of my eye in Migros.  If a Swiss junk food item hasn’t made it to a choir reception, chances are, I haven’t eaten it.  I decided to try one of these round chocolate thingies, and lo and behold!  I had just bitten into the Swiss version of a mallomar!  It was unmistakable, despite lack of graham cracker, a more bullet-rather-than-patty-like shape,  and a less marshmallowy interior.

Somehow, mallomars and chocolate soda go together in my memory of early childhood visits to my grandparents’ house in Plainview, Long Island.  I usually forget that mallomars exist until I happen to be around when my dad pulls out a box which he has carefully stockpiled during their seasonal appearance in Livingston, NJ,  never to eat himself but to gift to my grandfather or uncle who can’t get mallomars where they live.

We quickly got into a heated discussion of Schaumkuss, mallomars, and the Israeli delight, krembo, that reminded the Israelis of Schaumkuss, and which are also seasonal.  We discussed the differences, like the fact that mallomars are graham cracker and marshmallow, but krembos are taller and made of biscuit and whipped egg whites.  Despite these differences, they all somehow seemed to be the same weird food.  Apparently we are not the only ones who think there is a connection to be made.  See wikipedia here.  It’s like some kind of fried dough seems to make its appearance in many, many, food cultures (donuts in the US), mallomars also apparently come in many varieties in a wide range of food cultures.  Who knew?  Are they really that good?  And who knew that they originally had such terribly racist names in many places?

New dissertation topic?  “The Mallomar as the Embodiment of Racist Western Culture: from Denmark, to the Americas, Switzerland, and Israel, 1800-2010.”  Sounds good, right?

Incidentally, I plan on making that ingested Schaumkuss (translates as “foam kiss”) my first and last Swiss Mallomar experience.  So, no need to worry, Dad, you still won’t have a mallomar-munching daughter.

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Oct 01 2010

No internet, but still here

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We’ve done it–made our way from Renens to Lausanne.  The boxes are (sort of) unpacked, the new (second hand) oven is working, and the old apartment has been handed over to the new tenant.

We hired movers, who were fine, we hired a neighbor to do the cleaning on the landlord’s recommendation (great because she was half the price and did a great job and was nice and flexible), we rented a standard truck (go Seth’s new manual driving skills!) to haul over the rest of our stuff and go to the recycling center and pick up used stuff (a wardrobe, an oven/stove, and a fridge).  On Sunday we unpacked, and our food is currently organized in moving boxes on our shelves because we can’t figure out a better way to fit it.  And we’re making very heavy use of basement storage space which we technically share with another apartment whose tenants don’t seem to use it and hopefully won’t mind that we’ve taken it over.  Seth installed a light fixture because apartments in Switzerland come only with wiring, no bulbs, no glass casing, and for some reason only lower wattage CFLs seem to be working so there is not much light.  We put the wardrobe together, which was a challenge to do without directions and the fact that it has already undergone many dis-and-re-assemblings so is rather weakened at many of its ikea joints, but it’s fine now and fits most of our clothes.  Hopefully it won’t collapse.

The major challenge to overcome is getting internet in our apartment.  I am still at a loss for how to explain how television, phone, and internet work in this country, but Swisscom assured us last week that everything would go fine when we moved, our account would transfer, and our internet would magically work on Monday.  Not so.  Several billion phone calls to Swisscom later (thanks Seth!) and two visits from an electrician later, our internet?  Still not working.  I’m currently using a 3G usb stick.  And once it does start working, it will still be in my name and still require a landline, even though they now offer internet with a cell phone subscription and promised us they’d transfer it to Seth’s cell phone subscription plan without hassle. Argh, Swisscom.

Of course, all of this was AFTER I took care of the logistics of announcing our departure to Renens, announcing our arrival in Lausanne, and getting the papers necessary for a new residence permit and a new transport pass.  It has been an eventful two weeks.  But now that the hardest parts are over (I hope!), some musings and notes on moving:

  • We still haven’t done laundry (we’ve done a grand total of 2 loads since we’ve been back in the country, just underwear!).  The rules are more flexible here, as we don’t have an assigned day, just a sign up sheet.  But sign up times are still really long blocks of time when you’re expected to do all your laundry at once and get charged a lump sum, and it is thus still mainly during work hours.  We’re hoping to get a slot on Sunday (wow, Sunday slots!) so that I don’t have to do it all myself. So. much. laundry.
  • Seth’s commute is now about 20 min shorter, clocking in at just over an hour, total one way.  But  he also just found out how much he’s supposed to be working, and now he is planning to never take a lunch break because he doesn’t want to get home an hour later or get up an hour earlier.
  • It is pretty cool to be in Lausanne.  Everything is closer–just by a few minutes, actually, but it takes less planning.  And we can actually get places by walking, although hills are an issue.  There is a bakery, a famous chocolate shop, 3 dry cleaners, two small grocery stores, a bus stop, a metro stop, and a park within 5 minutes walking.
  • Since our kitchen and our living room are now one and there is no ventilation, our apartment is already really stinky.  The whole thing smells like our dinner.  Does this mean we will have to cook only bland food?
  • There was this thingy that had been left in our old apartment for us, and there was a new one in this apartment.  And then we went to the store to get some new supplies, like hangers and a foot stool, and saw a selection of them there.  I FINALLY figured out what it does after asking when I handed over our old apartment, since the directions on the boxes plus the internet failed to provide any insight.  It plugs the drain in the kitchen sink, but if the sink gets too full of water, it drains.  Why do all Swiss apartments come with that, but not light bulbs?  Or ovens, for that matter?

Just ritually checked the phone, for the 20th time today perhaps.  Whoa, dial tone!  That’s new!  Ok, time to go make my internet work…

Update, 10:30 pm: Still no DSL here, although our landline is now working, which is clearly very useful.  After fiddling with the router and such when he came home, Seth called Swisscom, again.  Swisscom reports that our internet will be turned on on Tuesday.  Tuesday?!  More than a week after they said it would?  I work at home; I need real internet!!!  Argh.

Update, Thursday: I called again this morning and they did some more careful checking to see what’s happening, and now believe it will be working by tonight. In the mail, we received a letter from Swisscom which (no joke) says that Swisscom has “many questions” about our telephone connection but has been unable to reach us (oh, really? you couldn’t call us on our Swisscom cell phones?) and would like us to call them.

Update, Thursday at 5pm: It works! Yay!

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